Cyprus casinos within two years; will police bust IFP tournament?

cyrpus-poker-association-casinosCyprus is in turmoil following the announcement of a controversial government plan to impose a levy on individual Cypriots’ savings to help fund a €10b bailout of their banking sector. The plan, which was worked out with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, imposes a one-off levy of 6.75% of the contents of Cypriots’ bank accounts, provided those accounts contain less than €100k. Accounts containing over €100k are facing a 10% money-grab. While the ‘withdrawals’ are being exchanged for bank shares, the surprise announcement has Cypriots frantically trying to withdraw their savings, and one irate fellow drove a bulldozer up to his local bank with the implicit threat that if he now owned part of the bank, he was within his rights to do a little remodeling.

Just days before the one-off levy was announced, Cyprus’ new coalition government announced it was finally ready to bring brick-and-mortar casinos to the island nation. Former President Demetris Christofias had been a staunch opponent of casinos, but now that the Commie prude is no longer president, Commerce Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis informed parliament that he’s asked the Cyprus Tourism Organization to update a 2007 study into what type of casinos would best benefit Cyprus, with the idea that the joints could be up and running within two years. Casino legislation has already been drafted, and while the tax rate hasn’t been established, the 2007 study estimated the state’s annual tax haul could be between €35m and €50m. Then again, that was before the state decided to confiscate much of their citizenry’s discretionary income…

Outside of sports betting, online gambling remains illegal in Cyprus, as do most other forms of land-based gambling. Last year, attempts by the Cyprus Poker Association (CPA) to hold team tryouts to represent the nation at the International Federation of Poker (IFP) Nations Cup were repeatedly harassed by local police. With Cyprus scheduled to host the IFP European Nations Cup championship April 12-15, organizers are hoping to avoid the embarrassment of having their ‘mind sport’ tournament raided by the fuzz. Antonis Theopanides told the Cyprus Mail that he had explained to the local authorities that no money would change hands during the tourney, and the authorities had given assurances that there would be no problems, but then again, they’ve said that before.

IFP founder Patrick Nally says the CPA’s woes were partially behind the IFP’s decision to host the event in Cyprus. Nally said there was a need “to change some of the old fashioned views that probably still exist.” The upcoming poker event will also be the first IFP shindig to go completely digital: no cards, no dealers. Each participant will be dealt a hand to their smartphone or tablet, courtesy of technology supplied by Xpress HD. Nally said the IFP was “embracing the technology which has made poker such a global success.”